Travel Tips - Quarterly - P&H Travel

Trusted Tips from Your Travel Agent




Being your travel advisor is more than offering you enchanting vacations to the far reaches of the globe. It also involves offering you personal support and helpful advice to enhance all your travel experiences, whether near or far.

The travel tips below are chock-full of important information that will help you travel the world safely and efficiently. Our agency simply wants you to have the best experiences possible, wherever you travel.

As always, please feel free to contact us about your future travel plans.

Happy Travels!



Five Common Trip-Planning Mistakes

Because there are so many variables involved—from the plane tickets and hotel reservations to meals and entertainment—self-planned journeys often go off track or way over budget. As someone who plans trips for a living, professional travel advisors like us have seen our share of mistakes made by even the most experienced travelers. Here are five you should definitely avoid:

Sticking to Set Dates - Airlines and hotels know when people travel most, so they typically raise their prices accordingly. You can save hundreds of dollars by being flexible with your travel dates.

Ignoring the Fine Print - The internet is filled with incredible travel deals that seem too good to be true. Before hitting that “Buy Now” button, take a moment to question how this company can possibly afford to sell their product for such a low price. The answer is usually in the fine print, where that low price comes with a slew of restrictions that will definitely damper your vacation.

Forgetting to Breathe - Many travelers return from a vacation exhausted due to over-planning. To see all of the must-see sights at their destination, they race across town from dawn to dusk, never stopping to soak it all in. It's okay to miss a few sights, as long as you take the time to enjoy the ones you do see. Travel agents always suggest spending more days at your destination, or to arrive at the embarkation port a day or two early, to give you that added time to breathe.

Stuffing the Bags - Some globetrotters cram all of their items into one carry-on bag, thinking it saves time and reduces baggage fees. However, after a week away—a week spent shopping—those travelers suddenly have no place to pack their newly-purchased items, so they have to buy another bag or suitcase. Moral of the story: always pack with room to spare. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you return home with more items than you left with.
Picking the Wrong Season - Every destination has a perfect time of the year to visit and not to visit. Under the “not to visit” times are those seasons that are too hot, too cold, too crowded or too expensive. Make sure you know before you go…or simply ask us.



How to Make Your Luggage Easier to Find in Baggage Claim

We've all been there, standing next to the conveyor belt in baggage claim, jostling with strangers to get a good view of the bags as they're making their turn, hoping that the next black one is yours. The wiser solution is to travel with a bag that's so visually unmistakable, that you can relax away from the black bag parade and casually wait for yours to arrive. Here are some ways to make your luggage stand out from the maddening crowd:

Tape it Up - Duct tape now comes in a wide variety of colors and themes. Find a roll that suitably expresses your style and tape a few stripes across your bag or on the handle.

With a Bow on Top - Festive ribbons and bows are not just for presents. Tie one on your luggage handle to spot it a mile away.

Get Artsy - Grab some stencils and shake up a can of spray paint. You can creatively stencil your initials in big, block letters and paint on a colorful design.

Iron Man - Iron a distinguishing picture or logo onto the luggage fabric. Be sure to put one on every side so that you can find your bag from different angles.

Stick it To ‘Em - Give your favorite five-year-old a packet of stickers and tell them to go crazy on your plastic bag.



The NY Times – Are Travel agents back? 

A NY Times article written by Michelle Higgins documents the details of the difference a travel agent makes on your vacation. From guests arriving to complimentary wine/cheese, a crib waiting for your little one – without spending hours of research, a travel agent may seem old fashioned, but is anything but in today’s travel market.            

Travel agents not only can offer you the perspective of reviews from other previous guests, but also offer you their personal expertise from their many trips scouring the globe for the nicest places that meet all your accommodations. Whether inspecting the newest hotels, or touring the latest cruise ships, travel agents allow you the unique experience to learn from what they spent their time away investigating.


Would you like having someone make a recommendation, and steer you in the right direction?

Are you looking for a one on one customized travel experience?

Are you concerned that the intricate informational search online may not land you the best deal? Price?


Perhaps all these reasons contribute to the fact that travel agent bookings account for a third of the $284 billion US Travel market. Think on your previous travel experiences… is there an aspect that could have made your vacation even better? More enjoyable? Longer time relaxing? Travel agencies are a true way to epitomize the benefits of VACATION!

Benefits of Going Offline when Traveling

To have a true vacation, you need to completely escape. Yet that’s getting harder and harder to do when you’re virtually tethered to your online life. It’s difficult to recharge your own batteries when you’re constantly charging your tablet or smartphone.

When your mind relaxes without interruptions, it’s easier to focus on whatever is right in front of you, allowing you to experience it in a richer, more satisfying way. A vacation—whether it’s a relaxing retreat to the Caribbean or an engaging journey through China—is filled with moments that deserve your full attention, so we suggest you do the following to get off the internet and on with making memories.

Make it Clear – Tell all your friends and co-workers that you will not, under any circumstances, be checking email. You can be reached for emergencies, but you cannot be reached to review the final draft or decide where to take mom out for dinner on her birthday.

Eliminate the Temptation – Out of sight is out of mind, so hide your phone or put it in the hotel safe. It will feel strange to walk around without that electronic brick in your pocket or purse, but your body will readjust quickly.

Back to Basics – You can still read fascinating stories and discover new information without being online. All you need are books. Bring several, because when Facebook and Pinterest aren’t hijacking your attention, you suddenly have the time and mental energy to read quickly.

Accept Not Knowing – Don’t Google anything. There will be times when you want to know something—like the name of that actor from that movie who is a dead ringer for your waiter—but on this vacation, you need to adopt an Zen-like appreciation for not getting the answer.

Once you’ve made the decision to digitally disconnect, connect with us. We know plenty of places around the globe that will make it easy for you to leave the internet far, far behind.


4 Ways to Make Your Flight in Coach More Comfortable

A great holiday is one that’s perfect from start to end. That involves the flight, yet some people believe it’s impossible to fly comfortably in coach. Whether you’re starting your holiday or heading home after a dazzling week in Hawaii, here are some simple steps to make the most of your seat in coach.

Choose the Biggest Small Seats – Fact #1: coach seats are small. Fact #2: not all coach seats are the same size. When available, we will gladly seat you in a bulkhead row that, while decreasing foot room, will give you more leg and knee space—a fair trade off for those seeking more comfort.

Fly at Night – We all try to sleep on long flights, but for some, success is seldom achieved. However, on a night flight, you’re flying at your body’s natural sleep time, increasing the chances of falling fast asleep and arriving at your destination more refreshed and ready to launch into your holiday.

Board Early – Boarding the plane early means you have more time to settle in and a better chance at storing carry-ons nearby. Many credit cards issued in conjunction wtih airline loyalty programs offer priority boarding to cardholders.

Pack Your Carry On Bag Wisely – The most important way to be comfortable is to have everything you need within easy reach. Those items, on a long, comfortable flight, will include a quality neck pillow, eye mask, personal music device loaded with low-tempo or ambient music, and your book or e-reader.

Think Before You Eat – No one is comfortable when they’re flying with too little or too much food in their system. Check ahead to see if there’s a meal on your flight. If not, pack a small, healthy meal to eat whenever you need. If there is a served meal, think about choosing the vegetarian option, which oftentimes is prepared more recently than the standard dinner.

Key Items to Pack that Save You Money

There are travel expenses you expect, such as dinners, attraction tickets and cab fares. But then there are those you don’t expect, and you find yourself looking for the nearest pharmacy or grocery store to buy them. These unexpected expenses tend to inflate our travel budgets, so it’s wise to pack the following items that will surely save you money.

Reusable Carry-On Bottles – While travel-size products seem relatively cheap, they’re not when you compare the price per ounce to their regular-sized counterparts. The money-saving alternative is to purchase 3-ounce reusable travel bottles and fill them with whichever products you need.

Travel Laundry Detergent – One of the most important items to pack in your reusable travel bottles is laundry detergent. Doing laundry at a resort or on a cruise ship can be expensive, so pack some detergent, a stain stick or both to handle those dirty clothes on the go.

Luggage Scale – We add pounds when we travel…pounds to our suitcases, that is. No matter where we go, we always come back with more gifts and more clothes. If these additional items push your suitcase over the weight limit on your return flight, the result is more money you have to shell out, sometimes as much as $200. A simple luggage scale is easy to pack and use to determine if there’s space in your luggage for even more.

Duct Tape – You can’t take a Swiss army knife on a plane, but you can take its just-as-useful cousin, duct tape. This handy adhesive can help you temporarily fix luggage damaged during the flight, so that you don’t have to purchase another bag. It’s also good as a make-shift lint roller, to tape curtains together to keep sun out of your hotel room, to seal over the drain in a hotel sink so that you can wash laundry, and, with a little tissue paper or cotton, even make a makeshift Band-Aid.

Inspiring Travel Books to Read on Your Next Vacation

A great vacation replenishes the traveler. It’s absorbing, taking you on an uplifting narrative of adventure and relaxation. It recharges you, so that by the last day, you are ready to tackle the real world with fresh and vibrant intentions.

The same can be said for a great novel, especially those, like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, that wonderfully combine travel and inspiration. By the last page, you accept the end of your literary journey with a smile, for it has filled you with a positive motivation. To be positively motivated on your next vacation, consider downloading these titles to your e- reader.

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton – This philosophical examination of why and how we travel goes around the world and throughout history to describe, in poetic detail, the pleasure of anticipating a journey, the magnetic allure of the exotic and the value of observation.

Tracks by Robyn Davidson – A frank and funny account of a courageous young woman’s journey through the Australian desert, where she learns a lot about herself and her companions: a dog and four camels.

Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald – A woman who vowed never to return to India again returns to India again. The resulting story is one of discovery and adventure in this land of beauty and chaos.

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts– This is more than a how-to manual on independent travel (which needs good travel agent advice just like any other form of travel!). It’s also an essay on experiencing the world in your own unique way.

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner– Weiner, a foreign correspondent, decided he’d had enough of the war-torn locales he reported on. So he traveled around the world in search of mirth, discovering, along the way, the true meaning of happiness.

The World's Most Unique Museums

We all love art museums when we travel, but sometimes we get a little museum-ed out. If the thought of seeing another original Picasso or staring up at Michelangelo’s David gets your yawn-maker going, consider visiting one of these museums instead:

El Museo de las Momias (Museum of the Mummies): Guanajuato, Mexico
Graveyards are fun, but all the cool dead people are buried and out of sight. That’s not the case at the Mummy Museum, where the skeletal remains of hundreds line the walls to haunt your vacation for a few hours.

Currywurst Museum: Berlin, Germany
Have you ever wanted to listen to the sounds of currywurst—a hot pork sausage smothered in a spicy curry sauce—cooking? You can in Berlin, where Germany’s national dish gets the royal treatment. Here you’ll learn about the history of currywurst and can even pretend to work behind the counter of a currywurst snack bar.

Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments: Prague, Czech Republic
If the words “Iron Maiden” make you think of the torture device instead of the English metal band, then this is the museum for you. Sixty morbidly fascinating torture devices are on display, each with a useful tutorial on how to operate them, which might come in useful to parents of teenagers.

Tap Water Museum: Beijing, China
The oddest thing about Beijing’s Tap Water Museum—built in a former pipe-house and containing 130 mouth-watering displays, such as vintage water coupons—is that you shouldn’t drink the water here.

British Lawnmower Museum: Southport, England
Did you know that Princess Diana owned a lawnmower? You would if you visited the British Lawnmower Museum, which showcases the past, present and future of lawnmowers.

Hair Museum: Avanos, Turkey
Some Turkish potters work from shacks, but one potter works in a cave covered by the hair of 16,000 women. Believe it or not, this is the world’s largest collection of hair.

Celebrity Lingerie Hall of Fame: Los Angeles, United States
The five people in the world who have not seen Cher’s bra should go here, where unmentionables are clearly mentioned. Also on display are Forrest Gump’s boxer shorts and Milton Berle’s feminine undies.

Cigarette Lighter Museum: Tokyo, Japan
Every “world’s most unique” list has an entry from Japan. In Tokyo alone there are museums for kites, baseball equipment, John Lennon memorabilia and cigarette lighters.


Best Educational Activities for Kids on Cruises

Some people believe that the "perfect family holiday" is a myth, some unattainable concept created by marketers. Apparently, those people have never been on a cruise vacation. Today's modern cruise ships offer a wide range of entertainment and activities for every member of the family, especially kids. Onboard kids' activities go well beyond splash parks and the arcade—many offer fun, age-appropriate learning opportunities. Here are three cruise lines that offer the perfect blend of education and entertainment.

Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean's complimentary, award-winning Adventure Ocean Youth Program divides kids and teens into age groups so that they can enjoy specialized, interactive programs made to expand their imaginations. Aquanauts (ages 3-5) enjoy the magic of Bubbling Potions, uncover the dinosaur-sized secrets of Jurassic Jr., and take over the ship with the Pirate Party Parade. Explorers (ages 6-8) experience hands-on science demonstrations to get their young minds churning along with explorations of the fine arts with Adventure Art and Adventure Theater.

Norwegian Cruise Line
NCL's Splash Academy program is specifically designed to engage active and creative kids ages six months to 12 years old. Highlights include learning how to juggle at the Cirque du Jour circus school and working on innovative arts and crafts projects.

Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity has partnered with The Nerdel Company to educate kids about healthy nutrition and physical activity in a fun way. Nerdel, the alien from the planet Zendel, is a life-size character that entertains little ones with live performances, musical activities, book readings and other fun things in a mission to empower children with the knowledge to make better nutritional choices and to take charge of their own physical wellbeing. With Nerdel, Shipmates (ages 3-5), Cadets (ages 6-8) and Ensigns (ages 9-11) learn about the art of puppeteering, performance and production.

Travel Ideas for Young, Single Adults

There are many advantages to traveling alone. You get to do exactly what you want, eat at the restaurants you want, see the exact sights you want, linger at the museum as long as you want and stay out at the club as late as you want, all without worrying about someone else's needs. Your vacation is exactly that, yours. Whether the traveler is you, your child or grandchild, here are four safe travel styles for young, single adults that give you every opportunity to do just what you want.

Age-Appropriate Bus Tours
Escorted bus tours, which are popular with senior travelers, are not the only type of bus tours available. In fact, there are several companies, particularly throughout Europe and Australia, which focus solely on youthful globetrotters. These outfits typically allow trekkers to jump on and off whenever the urge arises, providing local hotels to stay at night, so you can spend as much time as you'd like in any destination with all the new friends you'll surely make.

Safe Couch Surfing
There's an online, international network of people who are extremely happy to let strangers sleep on their couches. This provides young, single travelers a free place to sleep along with a new friend in a foreign locale who will gladly advise them on how best to experience their destination.

Carefree Cruises
The reasons young singles choose to see the world via a cruise vacation are many: you easily visit multiple countries or Caribbean islands while unpacking just once; every meal is included, and sometimes adult beverages too; activities onboard range from rock-climbing and surfing to Broadway musicals and karaoke; and endless ocean vistas appeal to all travelers. Certain cruise lines attract younger passengers, so please contact our agency to find the one that's right for you.

Educational Excursions
Some people travel to relax, while others travel to learn. On an education-focused journey, single travelers can learn to speak Chinese, discover all the secrets of French wineries, or study architecture in Barcelona. A variation of this vacation style is voluntouring, which combines travel with an opportunity to volunteer your time doing things such as building houses or teaching English as a second language.


How to Travel Peacefully with Your Friends

We usually spend time with friends in three or four hour blocks, going to dinner and the movies or watching a football game. So when friends decide to travel together, they're suddenly faced with each other's whims, needs and preferences 24/7, which sometimes causes enough friction to sabotage the vacation. Here are some tips on how to make sure that friends remain friendly while traveling.

Discuss Your Differences Before You Go
When planning the trip, openly discuss your travel styles. Some travelers plan every minute, while others prefer to wander. Some stay only in city centers, while others roam the countryside for a taste of rural life. Some like to relax throughout the day at cafes and parks, while others jam as much as they can into every day so that they don't miss a thing. Some prefer trains, while others like buses. If your travel mate's style differs from yours, find an amicable compromise in the planning stages in order to prevent any conflicts while at the destination.

Separate and Share
Plan to do separate activities once or twice during the trip, promising to meet up for dinner to share your experiences. The perfect time to play apart is during a cruise where each of you chooses a different shore excursion for that day. Come nighttime, you'll be trading wild tales over cocktails about your divergent adventures.

Consider Energy Levels
If you know your friends well enough to plan an international trip with them, then you should have a pretty good idea about their overall energy level. Are they peppy in the morning and sluggish in the afternoon? Are they notorious night owls ready to prowl the streets? Would they be able to race up a mountain path or would they need several breaks? Take these into consideration when planning your adventure.

Agree on the Budget
Have a frank talk before you go about how much you intend to spend, how frequently you want to eat at fancy restaurants and other activities that will cost money.

Keep Talking
The key tip to peacefully traveling with your friends is keeping the lines of communications open. Always express your opinions and ask for theirs in return. Only by knowing what both parties like and dislike will you be able to find a common ground.


Plotting the Perfect Itinerary

In life, there are pantsers and there are plotters. Pantsers like to live by the seat of their pants (hence the term ‘pantsers'), winging it as they go with the flow and see where the universe takes them. Plotters, on the other hand, plot out their tasks, their grocery lists, their errands and practically everything else in life, making sure they don't skip a thing.

To plan the perfect travel itinerary, it helps to be a serious plotter (like most travel agents are). But to truly enjoy that well-plotted itinerary, you need to have a little pantser in you (like most travel agents do!). Here are three key tips to plotting the perfect, seamless itinerary:

Give Yourself Time
An overly-ambitious planner would schedule an event for every second of every day, creating an itinerary that maximizes time but leaves no room for error or even improvisational exploration. So prioritize your sightseeing, choose only those at the top of your list and give yourself plenty of time to get there and enjoy these fantastic sights. Also realize that there are many factors you cannot plan for—such as traffic, missed connections or local events that shut down streets—so the more room you leave in your daily schedule, the less stress you'll experience completing it.

Include the Minor Details
Most people think their itinerary consists only of flights and hotels. Not so. It should also include travel time to the airport and from the airport's parking lots to the terminal. And let's not forget travel from the destination airport to your hotel, time to eat during your trip, and time to leisurely catch a connecting flight if your first one is delayed. Only by thinking of all of these various factors will you be able to create a seamless itinerary.

Add an Extra Day of Nothing
Regardless of how well-planned your vacation is, everything changes once you arrive at your destination. You may become ill or need time to shop if your luggage is delayed. Maybe you learned on the flight over about an incredible new restaurant you want to try but didn't schedule. Or perhaps a storm douses your plans for an all-day outdoor activity. The best thing to do is add an extra day of nothing at the end of your schedule, which will give you a cushion to do the things you might have missed.

Insights for Traveling in Italy

Italy is an extremely popular destination for many well-deserved reasons. The depth of its culture, the beauty of its cities, the splendor of its history and the friendliness of its people combine to create the perfect storm of tourist gratification. Still, there are many things you should know before you go to ensure a positive, tranquil travelling experience.

Timing is Everything – To experience Italy when the weather is pleasantly mild and the crowds are pleasantly absent, visit between April and June.

Try, Then Buy – Fashion is all around in Italy, from street markets to upscale malls. Unfortunately their clothing sizes can be confusing, so just make sure you try on anything you want to purchase. You’ll be glad you did because returning or exchanging an item is uncommon in Italian stores.

Demonstrate Caution – Avoid political demonstrations and other protests. Watch the news and pay attention to U.S. Department of State warnings to know where demonstrations may be happening.

Kids Don’t Do Culture – Italy is a smorgasbord of art, architecture and cultural delights, which kids will call “boring!” Small hotels without pools and long lines into museums do not mix well with most children under 12, so consider leaving them back home with relatives. Teenagers, oddly enough, might not care much for the culture either, but they will enjoy Italy’s style and international flare.

Days Off – Many shops are closed on Sundays and holidays due to Italy’s religious devotion, while museums often take Mondays off.

Romantic Honeymoon Hotspots

There are millions of people we could marry, but only one has the right combination of qualities to walk down the aisle with. The same can be said for honeymoon destinations. There are thousands to choose from, but only one has everything you need for your special journey. Here’s our list of current honeymoon hotspots, one of which hopefully possesses the elements you need to say “I do…want to go there.”

Fiji – For a tropical escape that caters to all vacation types, look no further than picture–perfect Fiji. Privacy seekers can peacefully lounge in secluded hideaways throughout the island, or those yearning for action can hike through rainforests and up mountains, or snorkel in water so calm and clear, you can spot colorful fish many meters away. A nearby alternative is Tahiti, where overwater bungalows provide honeymooners with a truly unique lodging experience.

Canadian Rockies – A winters paradise with stunning views, the Canadian Rockies are a sure bet for honeymoon bliss. Hours of skiing, white water rafting or glacier watching are balanced perfectly with romantic sleigh rides, pampering spa treatments and long nights with your partner staring into a flickering fire.

Florence – Romance can be found in every Italian city, yet Florence stands out as an ideal honeymoon destination. This intimate city is easy to enjoy, thanks to attractions such as the Duomo and the Uffizi, yet it never overwhelms you. So relax, take long walks through the labyrinthine alleyways, and stare into each other’s eyes while feasting on local food and wine.

Turks & Caicos – One of the Caribbean’s least developed islands, Turks & Caicos is a tranquil paradise tailor made for honeymooners. Spend long, leisurely days on secluded beaches and swimming above vibrant coral reefs, only to retire to your plush hotel before heading out for a dazzling dining experience.

Napa Valley – Limitless wine–tasting opportunities, along with exquisite views and romantic B&Bs, attract honeymooners from around the world to wine country. Each day is a breath of fresh air and a sip of sublime vintages, helping you become more intoxicated with your beloved.

Pet-Friendly Hotel Chains

Just a few years ago, the sight of a dog hanging out in a hotel lobby would have been an anomaly. Now it’s almost commonplace to see leashes among the luggage as more and more travelers take their pets with them on holidays. As the customer demand for pet–friendly accommodations grows, many hotels have created special programs to appeal to our four–legged friends. Here are three exceptional chains that will gladly welcome Fido with open arms and wagging tails.

W Hotel – At check–in, dogs and cats receive their own welcome packet complete with toys and treats.Dog–tired pets can refresh from their long journeys with
special beds and food and water dishes placed in their rooms. Concierges provide recommendations for walking paths, grooming and veterinary services, and nearby dog parks.

Westin Hotels – Pampered pooches will enjoy a luxurious pet bed, floor mats, food bowls, ID tags and more to feel right at home. To help make traveling more enjoyable, owners receive a "welcome kit" with information on nearby exercise areas and other goodies. Many Westins also welcome cats, but not all, so contact our agency to find out.

Ritz Carlton Hotels – Several of these exceptional hotels offer special pet packages including organized pet hikes, special beds, tasty treats and squeaky toys for pets between 10 and 30 pounds.

The Advantages of Cruising Solo

Everyone knows that a cruise vacation is an easy way to explore the world while enjoying a wide array of entertainment, activities and dining onboard a ship that seems more like a first-class resort. Yet in the past, single travelers have chosen to stay away from this advantageous form of travel. But now cruising solo is on the rise, and here is why.

Whatever You Want to Do, It’s Doable
Cruise ships are basically giant buffets of fun. Whatever you want to do—from active pursuits such as rock climbing, ice skating and hitting the gym, to educational adventures such as taking a photography class or attending a wine tasting, to relaxing poolside with a stack of paperbacks or getting a massage—you can easily do it onboard a cruise ship.

Finding Friends is a Breeze
It’s easy to enjoy the cruise on your own, if that’s your wish. But when the social bug bites and you want to mix and mingle, you’re in the right spot. Many cruise lines host a reception for singles at the beginning of the cruise, and some of these parties include dance hosts to make sure everyone has a swell time. Also, you’ll have your selection of bars, from piano to karaoke, to rub elbows, raise pints and make friends.

Single Cabins are Trendy
Several new ships, including the massive Norwegian Epic, have cabins designed specifically for solo travelers. These smaller cabins are priced for single occupancy and include everything you need to enjoy your cruise in complete comfort.

Avoiding the Solo Supplement
While the benefits of cruising are easy to see, some travelers are apprehensive of the solo supplement—the extra fee a single traveler is charged for reserving a double-occupancy cabin. Every cruise line has different rates and rules, so talk to us and we’ll find the best one for you with the lowest supplement. Also, travel agents are the first ones to know when a cruise line offers special sales that decrease or eliminate the solo supplement.

5 Great Island Destinations for Families

What does it take for an island getaway to be ideal for families? From our experiences as travel agents, it needs clean beaches, abundant sunshine, a variety of cuisines and a safe atmosphere. It needs an educational element, such as nature parks and historic intrigue. And it needs to be easy to get to and easy to navigate around. Here are five island destinations that definitely fit the bill.

Turks & Caicos – Turks & Caicos, a British territory just south of the Bahamas, has been a long held secret of Caribbean island insiders. It's known for magnificent white beaches and abundant undeveloped parkland. Among the resorts that dot the islands of the Turks, Beaches is one of several that have fine-tuned the art of kid fun and parent R & R.

Grand Cayman – Featuring pirate ships, turtle farms and submarine trips, this island specializes in the types of family-friendly adventures that create life-long memories.

Aruba – With a seven-mile stretch of beach lined with hotel, dining and recreational options, the opportunities for family fun are practically endless. Aruba is not only a grand island to relax on, it’s also relaxing to know that your plans will not be interfered with by hurricanes, since the island sits so far south.

Amelia Island – For those looking to stay stateside, Amelia Island—off Florida’s northeastern coast near the Georgia border—is a perfect and pristine paradise complete with dune-filled beaches, historical charm and boutique shopping.

Maui – Getting back to nature is easily achieved on Maui, where your family can go hiking in Haleakala National Park, spot sharks at the Maui Ocean Center, take a ride on the Sugar-Cane train or simply enjoy some of the best beaches in Hawaii.

Would You Enjoy a Culinary-Themed Vacation?

Every vacation has its culinary highlights, whether it’s an unforgettable risotto at a five-star restaurant, a perfectly-balanced Sauvignon Blanc you found at a small vineyard or the most delicious crème brulee you’ve ever tasted at an outdoor café. But would you enjoy a vacation that focused more on the epicurean, where your appreciation for food or wine would be enhanced while you explored a small, yet tasty, corner of the world?

There are many culinary-style vacations to choose from nowadays, which may include winery visits, food and wine events, festivals, cooking classes with celebrity chefs and more. These tours are specifically designed so that you experience the unique flavor of a particular geographic region or city in depth, such as a week-long wine tour of Burgundy or an extensive exploration into the flavors of Sicilian cooking.

Culinary travel is not limited to land. Most cruise lines offer wine and food-themed activities, ranging from demonstrations by world-renowned chefs and cooking classes onboard and on shore, to wine and spirit tastings and delightful meals focused on regional cuisine.

Traveling epi-curiously can also be a sweet endeavor, as any chocolate-themed vacation to Switzerland can tell you, where you can ride the Swiss Chocolate Train and visit the Cailler-Nestle factory and tasting room at Broc. In the U.S., travel doesn’t get much sweeter than to the town of Hershey, Pa., or the Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory in San Francisco.

Whatever you crave, we can design a travel experience around it. So open up the menu, choose what you most desire and give us a call.

How to Save Money on Food while Travelling

Unless you’re traveling on a cruise ship or to an all-inclusive resort, paying for every meal during your vacation can get expensive fast. However, by planning ahead and making some smart choices along the way, you can truly savor your destination without blowing your budget. Here are a few suggestions.

Choose the Right Hotel – Look for a hotel that serves a complimentary breakfast, which you should take full advantage of every morning, and a refrigerator or a kitchenette to store and cook food you buy at the local market. There might be no better way to become introduced to a new culture than to shop at the local grocery store.

Lunch over Dinner – The best time to feast on the local cuisine at an upscale restaurant is at lunch, when you can enjoy most of the same food they serve at dinner at a much lower price.

Picnic – Whether you pick up a baguette and cheese at the corner market or venture for some savory street fare, eating alfresco will certainly save you some dough.

Escape the Main Drag – Many destinations have certain thoroughfares or districts that attract the most tourists. When hunger strikes, get as far away from these as possible, for the restaurant prices will be higher the closer you are to tourist traps.

Just Say No to Room Service – No matter how convenient it is, room service prices are always high. Do your wallet a favor and walk to a nearby store for a late-night snack.

The Benefits of Upgrading on Your Next Cruise

Now featuring such wondrous attractions as surf simulators, waterslides, aqua-theatres, boardwalks, zip-lines and more, cruise ships have become quite amazing places in and of themselves. Many people assume that they will spend all their time onboard going from activity to activity, but the truth is, you will spend a lot of time in your cabin.

Because of this, many travelers are choosing to upgrade their interior cabin for a balcony stateroom, but is it worth it? Speaking as someone who has been on many cruises, we can say with confidence that YES, it is worth it! Here are the reasons why:

The View -- The ever-changing view that cruises provide is greatly enhanced when experienced in the ease and comfort of your balcony. Just imagine sitting on your own private balcony, sipping champagne and watching your ship pull into Barcelona or sail next to a glacier!

The Space -- all cabins are extremely comfortable & well-appointed, main difference is space. With a balcony to call your own, limitless ocean becomes one of the four walls of your stateroom, making it feel incredibly spacious.

The Cost -- Balconies do cost more than an inside cabin. But when you divide that cost by the length of your sailing, the per-day cost to treat yourself is quite low.

The Escape -- Even though cruise ships are sizeable, with plenty of room for everyone to enjoy, it's still valuable to have that one place to escape to and enjoy the cruise in total peace and quiet.

The Option -- Another terrific possibility for cruise passengers is upgrading to a cabin with concierge service. Having a concierge's assistance is invaluable, as he or she will help you secure reservations at onboard restaurants, book the ideal shore excursions, get priority seating for on-ship events, provide insider information and much more.

Five Things to Know Before Shipping Your Luggage

There are many options when it comes to traveling, a truism travel agents know better than anyone. One such option, to avoid airline baggage fees or to simplify your time at the airport, is to ship your luggage to your destination. Here are five things to consider before employing such a tactic.

1. Shipping your luggage makes the most financial sense when you're dealing with overweight suitcases and domestic flights. While many airlines now charge for checked bags, the cost is generally less expensive than shipping...unless your luggage is overweight, which airlines charge quite a bit extra to check. Also, shipping overseas is seldom wise, since many air carriers allow you to check one or two free bags on international flights.

2. There are several benefits to shipping your luggage. National shippers like FedEx and UPS have a better success rate than airlines at delivering your bags. Plus, their tracking codes let you know where you valuables are at all times. And shipping saves you time at the airport, since you don't have to queue up pre-flight to off-load your bags or mull around the baggage carousal after your flight--a true benefit for those travelling with children.

3. There are several disadvantages to shipping too. You have to pack and ship days before you travel, making it difficult to make any last-minute adjustments. Also, you'll need someone to sign for your package, which is easy if you're travelling to see family, but not so if you're flying for business, in which case you might need to request that the shipping company hold your bag until you can pick it up. And finally, it's wise to purchase insurance when shipping your luggage, which will cost you a few extra bucks.

4. Know your hotel. Call to confirm ahead of time your hotel's shipping address (which may differ from its street address), whether they accept bags at the front desk and if you will incur a fee for doing so.

5. Sports Equipment - Instead of shipping sports equipment, it may be cheaper to rent once you arrive. The benefit of renting is you may end up with better equipment or get a chance to try out a different brand or style.

What to Pack for an All-Inclusive Vacation

Our clients book all-inclusive vacations in order to play, relax, eat and drink to their heart's desire while being surrounding by a wealth of included amenities and activities. Packing for such a vacation can be perplexing, however, since resorts often assert that they have everything you need for the perfect vacation. While that may be true, you should consider the following before packing for you amazing vacation.

Ask your travel agent about your resort. We have personally stayed at many of the resorts we sell, so we know exactly what activities, amenities and services are free. We also know if a specific resort allows you to bring outside food or beverages, such as a special bottle of wine you've been saving for your anniversary.

Bring smaller items or specific brands. All-inclusive resorts will supply the basics when it comes to toiletries, so you should bring the smaller accessories or specific brands that you just can't live without, such as your toothbrush, make-up, grooming supplies, medications and so on. Also, you're most likely going to be outside a lot, so it's paramount that you pack sunscreen.

Leave all beach and entertainment items at home. all your beach and entertainment needs will be taken care of. Leave your bulky beach towels, snorkeling gear, family games and movies at home.

Don't forget a wide range of clothes. Most resorts are located on gorgeous beaches, so packing your favorite bathing suits and other warm-weather attire is a no-brainer. However don't forget to also bring athletic gear for the gym, tennis courts or golf course, as well as light evening wear for on-site clubs and romantic dinners.

Pro tip: bring a travel mug. You will be drinking a lot--from coffee and mimosas in the morning, to margaritas and iced tea on the beach. Insulated travel mugs keep your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks cold as you wander about and enjoy all the resort has to offer.

Travel Etiquette 101: Scandinavia & United Arab Emirates

When traversing the globe, we should never forget that we are guests in the countries we visit. Acting respectfully of the local customs is not just preferred but expected, so you should be prepared and know which actions are acceptable. With that in mind, here are general etiquette introductions to Scandinavia and the United Arab Emirates.


Never Call Someone a "Scandinavian" -- While the three countries that comprise Scandinavia--Norway, Sweden and Denmark--share many cultural similarities, they still maintain strong independent national identities. Refer to each country's people individually (ie. Norwegians, Swedes, Danes) rather than collectively. Also, inhabitants of Finland and Iceland, while included with Scandinavian neighbors, are accurately classified as Nordic.

All Men & Women Are Created Equal -- Equality of the sexes plays a strong role in Scandinavian society, in both professional and familial roles, so always treat both sexes the same. That being said, chivalry still has a place, so men should never shy away from opening a door for lady.

No Time for Chit Chat -- Scandinavians typically avoid idle conversation. So as much as you're tempted to ask, "How are you doing?" it's best to be direct with your conversation while looking them directly in the eyes.

Don't be Late for Dinner Parties -- Scandinavians tend to be extremely punctual, so if you are invited to someone's home for a meal, show up on time. Also, a small gift is expected, such as sweets for the host's children or a bottle of wine for the host.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Respect Goes Both Ways -- Consisting of seven principalities or sheikdoms, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a rising star in the travel world. Although 80% of the population is Muslim, the country is, in general, very tolerant of all visitors in order to appease the business travelers who frequent Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Travelers, however, should never take this tolerance for granted. Both men and women should show respect for the country's religious beliefs by dressing moderately and not showing a lot of skin.

Please Drink Responsibly -- While most of the Muslim population stays clear of alcohol, it is still available in select restaurants and nightclubs. If you partake, drink responsibly in order to refrain from any "boorish" activities, which might attract the attention of local authorities.

Meet and Greet -- Greet everyone in the room with a gentle handshake, direct eye contact, a smile and a polite "Salaam aleikum," or "Peace be upon you" (the reply to which is "Aleikum assalaam," or "and on you peace"). As with many Middle Eastern countries, always shake with your right hand, since the left is occasionally used for less sanitary purposes.

Sit Up, Soles Down -- When sitting in a group, slouching is considered rude, so sit straight. Also, the soles of your shoes should remain on the ground and never be pointed in someone's direction.

Car Rental Insurance: Are You Covered?

There's always a moment of hesitation when you're standing at the car rental counter and the clerk asks, “Do you want additional insurance?” Do I, you ask yourself, quickly wondering what your personal auto policy or credit card do and do not cover while driving a rental car. As your travel agent, we have answers to all your travel-related questions, even this one.

Your personal auto policy does cover you when driving a rental car, but how much depends on your policy. If you already have comprehensive and collision insurance for your own car, then buying the rental insurance, called CDW (collision damage waiver – also known as LDW, or loss damage waiver), would simply duplicate coverage. If you turn down the CDW, you still have to pay your deductible if the car is stolen, vandalized or damaged in a crash. If you have a bare-bones auto policy without comprehensive and collision coverage, the rental insurance is a wise investment.

Credit cards can include collision and theft protection if you charge the rental, but coverage varies. Some credit card policies cover only damage to your rental car but not to other cars, while some fail to offer personal liability coverage for injury or death claims. The benefits they offer are secondary to your auto policy, which means you will need to pay the deductible of your personal insurance in the event of a claim, which may cause your rates to increase.

Insider's tip! Those of you with an American Express® card can purchase Premium Car Rental Protection, which provides up to 42 days of protection for a one-time charge of $24.95. This plan offers primary coverage for damage to or theft of your rental vehicle, so you can bypass your personal insurance company if you need to make a claim.

So why choose the CDW? By purchasing the CDW, you are no longer responsible if the rental vehicle is damaged by an accident, vandalism or theft loss. That is, as long as you do not violate the rental agreement by driving recklessly or under the influence of alcohol, which would void the waiver.

The issues here are complex, so before your next trip to the rental car counter, do your homework. Find out how much your personal policy

Shore Excursions - Are They Right for You?

With rock-climbing walls, numerous restaurants, high-action casinos, giant water-parks and Broadway style theatres, modern-day cruise ships have become destinations themselves. But one of the best aspects about taking a cruise vacation is leaving these floating resorts and exploring the tropical islands and seaside metropolises your ship calls upon.

Oftentimes the best way to explore these destinations is to take a shore excursion. Here’s a quick overview to help you decide if shore excursions are right for you.

What are Shore Excursions?
Offered by the cruise line and other companies, organized shore excursions are land-based trips that provide a wide variety of experiences, from a simple city tour or wine tasting to active pursuits like dog-sledding or mountain-biking. Cruise lines only offer a limited set of excursions at each destination, which is why we work with several trusted companies to provide our cruise clients with a broader range of activities at every port, oftentimes in smaller groups and at lower costs than those provided through the ship. Contact us to discuss all your options!

When Should You Book Your Excursion?
Tours can be booked either through us prior to the cruise or onboard at the ship’s excursions desk. However, since there is often a long queue at the excursion desk onboard, and since some of the more popular excursions fill up before the sailing; it’s best to book them beforehand.
Benefits of Shore Excursions
With only a few hours to explore a new destination, it’s sometimes difficult for passengers to disembark, orient themselves on the crowded pier, consider various offers from local guides who may or may not be trusted, and decide how to best experience this exciting new place. A shore excursion cuts through all this clutter, providing you with a licensed and reputable tour provider to take you straight to your desired activity.

Active or Sightseeing?
There is an extensive range of shore excursions due to the wide variety of destinations you encounter, but most can be classified as either active or sightseeing. Active tours are great for those who want to have a distinctive experience in a unique setting. These excursions can involve adrenaline-pumping activities like zip-lining through rain forests or snorkeling with stingrays, or cultural activities such as a cooking demonstration. With an active excursion, you may not get a good overall sense of the port city, but you’ll have a great story to tell everyone back home.

On the other hand, sightseeing excursions are generally bus tours that take you to the highlights of the region, giving you a thorough introduction to its culture and history. Oftentimes these excursions involve low-key activities, such as stopping in a shopping district to peruse the local wares or a few hours at the beach to just peruse the locals.

If you have any more questions about shore excursions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ve been on dozens and would love to tell you all about them!

Exchanging Currency the Smart Way

Exchanging currency is a part of international travel, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful part. While exchange rates vary from place to place—as do the handling and transaction fees—a little knowledge will make a world of difference in your money belt.

Know Before You Go
Ask one of our professional travel consultants or research online to learn the current exchange rate. Then practice exchanging random amounts to get a good idea on what a typical conversion would be. That way you’ll more quickly recognize a good exchange rate, and you’ll be able to bargain more efficiently in places where negotiating is commonplace.

Exchange a Little at Home through Your Bank or Travel Agency Beforehand
You never know what to expect when you arrive at your destination—ATMs may be scarce or the airport exchange counter may be closed—so it’s always a good idea to have roughly $100 worth of the local currency in your pocket on arrival so that you can get a cab to your hotel and a bite to eat.

ATMs are Your Friends
To get the best exchange rate, wait until you arrive at your destination and then hunt down the nearest ATM machine that’s affiliated with a major bank. PIN-protected debit and credit cards typically work trouble-free overseas, as long as you alert your bank at least one week prior to your journey that you will be traveling (banks sometimes freeze a card used repeatedly in a foreign city). There will be a service fee for overseas ATM usage and conversion (typically 3%), so it’s better to withdraw a large sum of local cash once than make many small withdrawals—just be careful with all that money!

Use Hotels and Airports Only in Times of Needs
Exchange desks at hotels, airports and tourist spots may be the most convenient, but they also typically involve the highest transaction charges. So only use them if you have no other choice and you immediately need cash.

Important Steps to Getting Your Travel Visa

If you are traveling to more “exotic” destinations, you often need a travel visa in addition to your passport. While a passport is your ticket to travel outside of the United States, then think of the travel visa as your boarding pass to the destination you are visiting.

A travel visa is typically a stamp or sticker placed in your passport by an official of the foreign country you plan to visit. They are obtained from the embassy or local consulate of the destination country, and they define the reason for your visit as either business, tourist or transitory.

Here are some important steps to take to acquire your travel visa.

1. Determine if You Need One: With more than 270 countries requiring visitors to obtain travel visas, chances are good you might need one for your journey. To make sure you need a visa to travel to your desired destination, contact our agency or visit the  online for a U.S. Department of State complete list of countries.

2. Obtain or Renew Your Passport in Time
You will need a valid passport to receive your visa and to regain entry into your home country. Some countries require that you obtain your passport at least six months before the visa is issued, so don’t wait until the last minute. Also, many countries require that your passport be valid for at least six months after your travel date. If yours is set to expire during your vacation, you will need to renew it before you leave.

3. Get Your Visa at the Proper Time
Visas are temporary by nature, with some remaining valid for only one month after issuance, while others are good for 10 years. Each country has different rules for when you should obtain your travel visa in relation to your trip, so please contact our agency for details on your specific destination country.

4. Find and Fill Out the Form Completely
Once you have your passport and know when you should apply for your visa, contact the embassy or consulate to obtain your application. Fill out the application completely and collect all necessary documents and processing fees. Since your passport will be included with your visa application, it’s wise to hand deliver the application if possible. In fact, some countries do not accept applications by mail. If you do mail your application, be sure to do so in a way that you can track the package.  Should you wish, ask us to handle it or we can recommend a company which charges fees to handle all the logistics of obtaining visas.

Travel Etiquette 101: India & Brazil

When traversing the globe, we should never forget that we are visitors in the countries we travel to, so we should act respectfully of the local customs. The key to acting respectfully is to come prepared, knowing which actions will result in a warm smile and a friendly handshake from the locals, versus those that will get you colorfully cursed at or kicked out of a house of worship. With that in mind, here are general etiquette introductions to India and Brazil.

Keep Your Hands to Yourselves – Indians do not universally shake hands upon greeting someone. Instead, when you greet someone in India, clasp your hands together and nod or bow while saying, “Namaste,” which roughly means, “I honor the spirit within you.”

Dress Code – Modesty is the norm in India, so women should always have their legs and shoulders covered. Men, however, are expected to dress in a way that communicates their social position. For example, men can wear shorts, but they are regarded as low-class.

Public Behavior – Kissing or other forms of intimate behavior between a man and woman in public are deemed offensive. However, men often embrace and hold hands in public as a sign of friendship.

Bargaining – Haggling is common throughout India, especially in outdoor markets, but it is never taken too seriously. You are free to walk away at anytime while negotiating without insulting the merchant.

General Curiosity – Be ready to answer very personal questions—about your relationships, age, salary, family—when conversing with an Indian, for they are a curious lot. Conversely, you are allowed, even expected, to return the favor and ask any question you’d like.

Watch Your Language – Don’t assume that the small amount of Spanish you learned in high school will help you with Portuguese-talking Brazilians. Take the time to learn key Portuguese phrases.

Talk the Talk – Brazilians are passionate conversationalists who interrupt each other often. Don’t take it personally when they cut you off mid-sentence to interject their opinion on the topic, because that often means there are interested in what you’re saying. Also, as opposed to India, keep the conversations light in tone and stay away from personal subjects.

Personal Space – Be prepared to get up close and personal with the locals, who welcome each other with numerous hugs, back-slaps and cheek-kisses. If you act offended by these actions, you may be perceived as difficult or unapproachable.

Not OK – The “OK” sign, where you make a small circle with your thumb and index finger, is an extremely rude gesture in Brazil. Instead, use the thumbs-up sign to show your approval.

Clothing Optional – While in Rio, you may be shocked at how little the locals wear. Don’t assume the rest of the country follows suit, as you will find much more conservative attire in the heart of the country.

How to Maximize Your Airline Miles

For some, accumulating frequent flyers miles is a fun little obsession. But that fun comes crashing to a halt once it’s time to cash in and get the tickets you want. Between changing mileage programs and new credit cards that allow passengers to buy their way into elite status, you’re suddenly finding yourself fighting to get the seats you deserve.

Here are five ways to get the most out of your frequent flyer miles.

Choose Your Goal, then Work the System to Achieve It

Don’t assume you’ll use your miles someday to go somewhere. It’s best to have a specific destination in mind, such as Australia, and then make sure you’re enrolled in a program that requires the least number of miles to get there. Choose a program that gives you the flexibility to use your miles on as many carriers as possible to get to your goal destination. To find the best program, find out which international carriers partner with the airline you rack up the most miles on, compare how many miles in each program it’ll take to get to your target destination, and then find out how many free seats each carrier gives away on their flights. Our experienced travel consultants can help you with this.

Choose the Right Credit Card

Flexibility is key to maximizing your miles, so find a credit card that lets you redeem miles on a wide array of airlines or one that offers double miles on travel or other purchases. One to look out for is the Starwood card from American Express® card, which not only accumulates Starwood Starpoints® for free hotel stays, but also gives you a 20% bonus when you transfer miles to other airline frequent flyer programs.

Look for One-Way Awards

Since some programs offer one-way awards, think about flying into one airport and returning from another. This tactic works best for major, multi-airport cities (think Chicago, New York or Washington, DC), but it’s a good trick to have in your back pocket.

Search Early, Real Early

Some carriers change their award inventory on Friday and Saturday afternoons, and those updates don’t go into effect until midnight. So don’t wait until Monday to call for your award seat; try 12:01 a.m. on Saturday or Sunday.

Watch Out for Expiring Miles

If your airline miles are about to expire, but you don’t have a trip planned or you can’t afford to take any more vacation days from work, spend a small portion of your miles elsewhere. Instead of spending the bulk of your miles on one plane ticket, you can keep your account active by purchasing a smaller item, such as a gift certificate to restaurants or magazine subscriptions, which sometimes gives you a greater value for the miles you spend. Likewise, several major airlines are connected to dining programs, offering miles for meals at thousands of restaurants, for a tasty way to keep your account active.

The Most Challenging Airports to Transfer In

All travelers come across a time in their travel planning when they need to schedule a transfer at a major airport. You glance at the arrival time of your inbound flight and all your connecting flight options. “Is 60 minutes enough time?” you ask yourself, suddenly wondering how far the gates will be from one another and if your flights will be on time.

As your travel counselor, we generally add in additional transfer time to your itinerary, giving you plenty of time to get your bags, go through customs (when necessary), change terminals, pass through additional security, navigate the vast airport and find your gate. While the extra time is not always needed, arriving a half-hour early at the gate is more enjoyable than missing your connection and scrambling to secure the next available flight.

Of course, we vary how much time we leave our clients to transfer based on several factors, such as the time of day your inbound flight is taking off and the airport you’re flying into. Simply put, some airports are easier to connect in than others.

The most challenging airports for a transfer are typically largest & busiest. Nothing ruins a successful transfer more than racing from one extremely long concourse to another, waiting for people-movers to load & unload, dodging other travelers along the way.

Here’s airports that often take the most time to make a transfer.

ATL: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (Atlanta, Georgia) – Hartsfield is the world’s busiest airport. Any airport dealing with such a large volume experiences frequent delays and persistently crowded concourses.

ORD: O'Hare International Airport (Chicago, Illinois) – O’Hare used to be the nation’s busiest until 2005, when the government stepped in to reduce the total number of flights in order to decrease delays. Unfortunately O'Hare still accounts for more than a sixth of the nation's total flight cancellations, which doesn’t bode well for travelers trying to catch their connecting flight.

LHR: London Heathrow Airport (London, United Kingdom) – For seven straight years, Heathrow has hosted the largest number of internationally-bound passengers annually, making it the mixing bowl of European airports. Passengers connecting on another airline may need to change terminals and go through immigration twice.

HND: Tokyo International Airport (Tokyo, Japan) – Not only is HND (also known as Haneda Airport) one of the world's busiest domestic-only airports, but the local signage, printed predominantly in Japanese, is difficult to follow, making it an adventure for some travelers searching for a specific terminal.

JFK: John F. Kennedy International Airport (New York, New York) – With nine terminals, chances are you will need to board a bus or catch the light-rail train to transfer, which—depending on the crowds of inexperienced air passengers who are also trying to switch terminals—could be difficult.

You may be wondering which airports are the easiest to connect in. The top rated transfer airports include those in Denver (DEN), Detroit (DTW), Munich (MUC), Amsterdam (AMS) and Singapore (SIN).

5 Intriguing Destinations for Travelers with Disabilities

There’s more to a great accessible destination than just wheelchair ramps and barrier-free accommodations. First, it needs to be a place you’d want to travel to. It must have that special combination of captivation, amusement, attraction and value. It must appeal to both people with and without disabilities. Sound impossible to find? Not any longer. Our agents know of many destinations that categorically fit the bill, making them wonderful candidates for your next all-accessible vacation extravaganza. Here’s a list of intriguing, accessible destinations.

Las Vegas

The “Entertainment Capital of the World” knows how to entertain everyone, including travelers with disabilities. Las Vegas has more wheelchair accessible guest rooms than anywhere else in the country, many with roll-in and transfer showers and pools outfitted with lifts. Wheelchair seating is available at most shows, with many also providing assistive listening devices. Casino floors are spacious, with plenty of room to roll up to a slot machine to test your luck. Even getting around is easy. The Strip has several elevated crosswalks accessible by elevator, making sidewalk travel in a wheelchair a cinch, in addition to the availability of many specially-equipped taxis.

Rocky Mountain National Park

While this jewel of the National Park System is mostly known for its 60 peaks that soar above 12,000 feet, travelers with disabilities will also enjoy its accessible campsites, trails, buildings, fishing piers and ranger-led tours. The trails are divided into fully, moderate and marginally accessible, giving everyone a clear idea of what lies ahead. Two of the three accessible campgrounds are open all year round, and all three have several ADA-compliant sites and fully-accessible bathrooms, along with some of the most amazing views you’ll ever see.

Morgan's Wonderland

There is no destination more amusing than an amusement park. And there’s no amusement park more tailored for fun-loving people with disabilities than San Antonio’s Morgan’s Wonderland. Designed to be enjoyed by those in wheelchairs or with cognitive disorders, Morgan’s is billed as the world's first ultra-accessible family fun park. Set on 25 sprawling acres, it includes rides, interactive exhibits, playgrounds, gardens, a fishing lake and live entertainment.

African Safari

A safari may not be for everyone, but thanks to a wide variety of accessible outfitters and accommodations, everyone can still enjoy this wild vacation experience throughout the continent. Many lodges found in or adjacent to national parks contain roll-in showers, wide doorways and support rails, and some tour operators feature vehicles with ramps and lifts.


Bigger, roomier cruise ships are being launched every year. These new builds offer many accommodations and facilities for travelers with disabilities, making it easier to visit several exotic ports of call during one memory-filled vacation.

How to Choose the Perfect Rental Car

Whether you need a car to drive from the airport to your seaside cabin, or you’re planning a road trip and don’t want to put the extra miles on the family sedan, then a rental car is in your future. What doesn’t have to be in your future is difficulty choosing the right rental. Here are four tips to ensure you end up behind the wheel of the best car possible.

Price is Nice – Many travelers view a rental car like their luggage: they know it’s necessary, but don’t want to fuss about it too much. If this describes you, then by all means shop by price and choose the smallest vehicle the car company has. Luck may be on your side since so many people shop by price and are aiming for the exact lowest-price vehicle as you, the company may be out of them when it’s time to grab your keys, forcing them to upgrade you to a roomier car at the same price.

Stick to the Big Boys – When renting, you may find a great price for a compact car through some low-budget, locally-owned company. Before committing, know that the rental will also come with low-budget, locally-owned service, which may steer you into a bad mood once you’ve dealt with it. In our experience, it’s wise to stick to the bigger, national brands like Hertz, who are best at getting people into theirs cars fast and helping out swiftly if things go wrong on the road. In the interest of full disclosure, our agency has an exclusive partnership with Hertz, which means we can often get you special rates you are unable to find on your own!

Indulge Yourself – No matter what type of vacation you’re on, remember that you’re on a vacation! That means you should be pampering yourself even if it’s just a little. When selecting a rental car, choose one with a little more room and luxury than you’re used to. There’s no faster way to get into a vacation frame of mind than driving away from the airport in a luxurious vehicle, blasting SIRIUS XM radio and using the car’s built-in navigation system.

Must Have Airport Location – There are few deal-breakers when it comes to choosing a rental car company, but this is definitely one: it must have cars located at the airport. The last thing you want to do when your plane lands is take a cab or bus to an off-site rental company, which only adds an extra leg onto the journey. Choose one you can walk to, or at least has a direct shuttle bus service to an on-airport facility, thus saving you valuable time and hassles.

Look Out for Hidden Charges – Due to typical taxes/fees, the price of a rental car always exceeds the base price. However, there are non-typical fees to watch out for, such as drop-off charges for one-way rentals & mandatory insurance on international rentals. To avoid expensive surprises, turn to us for your rental car purchase.

Useful Travel Apps for Smartphones

Mobile phone applications, are quickly becoming an everyday necessity for smartphone users. Travelers rely more on portable programs than guidebooks, because guidebooks can’t send postcards of you standing before the Parthenon to your friends or give you precise directions to the nearest restroom.

Here’s a list of quality travel apps for both Apple’s iPhones and Google Android system phones. Remember: our travel agency is all apps combined into one, so be sure to have our phone number and email address in your phone!

Top Travel Apps: iPhone

Packing – Never forget the camera again! Packing helps you create lists of items for your vacation that you can check off as you pack.

HearPlanet – Consider this your pocket tour guide. HearPlanet tells you what attractions are nearby and plays the Wikipedia description of that attraction aloud.

Lonely Planet Phrasebook – There are many language convertor apps, but this one speaks the translated phrase aloud so that the listener can determine what you need.

Toilet – For those times when you really need to go in a foreign land, tap the Toilet icon, pick the local language, and show it to a kind stranger who can point you to the right direction.

Postino – We all take pictures with our phones. Postino gives the ability to turn pictures into postcards you can send to friends, complete with a handwritten message and virtual stamp.

Top Travel Apps: Android

Nru (Near You) – A virtual compass created by Zagat that literally points you to nearby Zagat-rated restaurants. Also includes reviews, menus and prices.

ConvertMe – This nifty little app not only converts currency, but also shoe and clothes sizes, measures, distances and more.

WikiPock – carry an encyclopedia in your pocket. WikiPock allows you to access all three million Wikipedia articles on your phone without an internet connection!

Compass – Never get lost again. Compass uses the accelerometer in your phone to keep you going in the right direction.

Aldiko Book Reader – Now you can catch up on your reading at the airport. Aldiko lets you download and read thousands of books (many of the classic titles are free!) right on your phone.

The 411 on Electronic Cruise Documents

Several cruise lines—including Azamara, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean—are no longer sending passengers their physical ticket and travel details before the voyage, turning instead to electronic cruise documents called eDocs (personalized electronic documents featuring a detailed summary of your cruise vacation that also acts as your boarding pass. These interactive, Web-based documents include important pre-cruise information, such as embarkation details, your day-by-day itinerary, our agency’s contact details, your flight details and much more).

The beauty of eDocs—besides their positive environmental impact and 24/7 accessibility—is their interactivity. Links you can click on quickly and easily discover information about onboard programs, destinations and spa services, or share your cruise information, such as your exciting itinerary, to your friends and family with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Once your booking with one of these cruise lines has been finalized, your eDoc will be emailed to you as early as 49 days prior to sailing. eDoc contain directions on pages to print out for your boarding pass. If you do not have access to a printer, you have the option to have your cruise documents mailed to you (though some cruise lines charge a small fee for this service).

Another new convenience that will save you time at the departure pier is the eDocs luggage tag system. Through this new program, you will be mailed up to eight pre-printed, color-coded, self-adhesive luggage tags that, once affixed to your pieces, will streamline the onboard luggage sorting and delivery process.

any further questions about eDocs, please give our agency a call!

3 Ways to Use Social Media to Travel Better

For personalized and detailed information about your destination, such as restaurant recommendations near your hotel and tips for navigating an airport, you used to turn to one reliable source: travel agents like us. Travelers have a new option: social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs.

Travelers share information with one another on every topic. The information you receive may not be as dependable, or as customized for your individual trip, as what our agency provides; however, social media sites do provide around-the-clock access to a wide range of reviews and advice. Here are three ways to use social media outlets as valuable research tools for your next vacation.

Ask the World Wide Web Any Question

You’ll never know the answer to something unless you ask, right? With social media sites on your side, you have hundreds, even thousands of people (depending on your friends and networks) ready to answer any question you post in your status. Want to know where to catch the ferry in Hong Kong? Which bar in Sydney has the best view of the harbor? Simply ask, and you’ll be surprised by the answers you receive.

Contact a Local Blogger

There’s a blogger in every major city who prides him or herself in knowing more about the upcoming events and restaurant openings than anyone else. Use Google’s blog search to find that proud blogger (there’s usually a dozen or so in each city) and contact them for personal recommendations.

Use User Reviews

When you buy a book from Amazon, you look at the reviews first. You should do the same for any hotel or restaurant around the world. You’ll find plenty of reviews on user-generated sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, filled with the details you need to know before making your next decision.


7 Intriguing Travel Gadgets

Ferdinand Magellan relied on a compass. Christopher Columbus turned to the quadrant. Sir Edmund Hillary depended on an oxygen mask. The world’s greatest explorers all used gadgets of one type or another to traverse this wondrous world of ours, and the tradition lives on today.

Here’s list of seven gadgets that can enhance your next holiday.

Slingbox Pro-HD: If you’ve ever sat in a hotel, bored with the limited cable channels your room receives, and wanted to watch something you DVR’d the week before, you now can. The SlingBox Pro-HD lets you remotely control and watch your cable box, DVR and DVD players at home from laptop computer or smartphone.

Novatel MiFi: searching for a Wi-Fi connection are over. MiFi—a wireless card sold through Sprint and Verizon—combines Wi-Fi and 3G access into one device. You have to sign up for a two-year data plan to use it, but it’s worth it to never hunt for a hotspot again.

Franklin's TGA-490 12-Language Speaking Global Translator

Many travelers use a pocket translator, but accurately pronouncing those foreign words that pop up on the screen can be a challenge. The TGA-490 digs into its database of more than 450,000 words and actually speaks them aloud in a human voice.

Kensington ComboSaver Portable Notebook Lock

For many travelers, their laptop is more important than their wallet or purse. They’d be crazy to leave it on a coffee shop table in Rome for a few minutes to get a second latte, but they often do, and too often they return to find their computer stolen. The Kensington lock quickly secures your laptop to the table, helping you protect your computer and all the sensitive data inside.

Flip UltraHD Camcorder: The days of lugging around 20 pounds of video equipment are over. The portable Flip is the size of a pack of cigarettes and so easy to operate that everyone in your family can film your great traveling adventures.

The 150-Country Auto-Detecting Travel Adapter and Converter

A lightweight, compact, all-in-one device that converts almost any voltage into 120-volt AC power. Works in more than 150 countries (just like the snazzy title says) and even includes a built-in USB port that allows you to charge other gadgets.

Fujifilm Finepix Z33WP: Some of our best vacations involve getting wet. Whether it’s snorkeling with stingrays in the Caribbean or splashing around the resort pool, you’re going to need this 10-megapixal camera that’s waterproof up to 10 feet, automatically tags your subjects and has an in-camera tool for uploading images to the internet.

Tips for Traveling Abroad - (from

Register so the State Department can better assist you in an emergency:  Register your travel plans  with the State Department through a free online service at  This will help us contact you if there is a family emergency in the U.S., or if there is a crisis where you are traveling.  In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts will not be released to others without your express authorization.

Sign passport, and fill in the emergency information:  Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport.

Leave copies of itinerary and passport data page:  Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends, so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.

Check your overseas medical insurance coverage:  Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation.  If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.

Familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws:   While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws.  The State Department web site at has useful safety and other information about the countries you will visit. 

Take precautions to avoid being a target of crime:  To avoid being a target of crime, do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money.  Also, do not leave unattended luggage in public areas and do not accept packages from strangers.

The next time you plan a trip, pack a little peace of mind by purchasing travel insurance. Give our agency a call and we’ll set you up with the perfect policy that fits your plans and your budget.


Contact us in an emergency: Consular personnel at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and in the U.S. are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens.  Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates appears on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at  Also note that the Office of Overseas Citizen Services in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs may be reached for assistance with emergencies at 1-888-407-4747, if calling from the U.S. or Canada, or 202-501-4444, if calling from overseas.

Weather Information For your destination


Aviation Consumer Protection


State Department Travel Page


International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Center


Tips for Traveling Abroad


Airport Status and Delays Info


Worldwide Directory of Tourism Offices


Center for Disease Control Travel Page


Security Checkpoint Wait Times


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Your Rights as an Airline Passenger

What You Need to Know to Ensure a Happy Landing

From last-minute cancellations and overbooked planes to bad weather and air-traffic delays, a variety of obstacles can stop you from getting on your plane and making it to your destination on time. But what recourse do you have? Luckily your travel agent is here to give you the 411 on your rights as an airline passenger.

  • Fare change refunds – Fares change from time to time. If the fare for your seat goes down before you fly, some airlines will refund the difference—but only if you ask! So call the airline or your travel agent before your departure to check the latest fare price.
  • On-time codes – When you can’t decide between two similar flights, ask for the on-time performance code for each flight. This one-digit code in the reservations computer shows how often that flight has recently arrived within 15 minutes of its scheduled arrival time. A "7" means that flight arrived relatively on-time between 70% and 79.9% of the time. This information will help you make a more-informed choice.
  • Lost tickets – Lost or stolen paper tickets can be a hassle, and refunds can be difficult to obtain. The key is to have your ticket number on you at all times, so jot it down on a piece of paper and carry it separately from your ticket. If your ticket is lost or stolen, the airline can process your refund application more quickly, and perhaps issue an on-the-spot replacement ticket, when you can give them this number.
  • Endorsed tickets from one airline to another – If your flight is canceled, most airlines will rebook you on one of their future flights at no additional charge. If this involves a lengthy delay, see if another carrier has space on a similar flight, then ask the first airline to endorse your ticket to the new carrier. This could save you from a potential fare increase. There is no rule requiring them to do this, but it doesn’t hurt to nicely ask.
  • Reimbursements during delays – If your flight is delayed, ask the airline representative if they will pay for a meal or phone calls. Since airlines are not required to compensate passengers, each handles it differently. Smaller airlines usually do not provide compensation to stranded passengers, while others do not when they feel the delay is beyond their control, such as bad weather.
  • Overbooking – Overbooking is common and not illegal. This practice protects airlines from no-shows, while causing some passengers to be voluntarily or involuntarily bumped. When a flight is overbooked, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires airlines to ask passengers to give up their seats voluntarily in exchange for compensation. If no one complies, then passengers are involuntarily bumped by order of check in (those who checked in last are more apt to get bumped). Checking in online before you leave for the airport will improve you chances of not getting bumped.
  • Voluntary bumping – Before you choose to become voluntarily bumped, you should first learn when the next flight is, if your seat can be confirmed, and if the airline will provide extra compensation for meals, a taxi or a hotel room (for overnight delays). Each carrier negotiates differently, often offering money or free future trips. The fewer the volunteers, the more leverage you have for negotiations. If the airline does offer you a free ticket for a future trip, find out if it comes with any restrictions.
  • Involuntary bumping – The DOT requires airlines to give all involuntarily bumped passengers an on-the-spot payment, the amount of which depends on the price of the ticket and the length of the delay. If the airline can get you to your destination within one hour of your original time, no compensation is due; within one to two hours, you receive the cost of a one-way fare, up to $200; longer than two hours entitles you to double the one-way fare, up to $400. For international flights, the airline has up to 4 hours to get another flight.
  • Damaged luggage – If your suitcase arrives at your destination damaged, the airline generally pays for repairs. If the bag cannot be fixed, they will negotiate a settlement to pay you its depreciated value. The same holds true for what is packed inside a damaged bag; however, airlines may decline to pay for anything damaged due to poor packing or if the exterior of the bag appears unharmed.
  • Delayed luggage – Airlines track down roughly 98 percent of all misplaced bags. In most cases, the airline will reimburse you for reasonable expenses you incur while they track down you missing bag. The amount depends on whether or not you’re away from home, along with how long it takes to track down and return your bags.
  • Lost luggage – Once your bag is declared officially lost, you will submit a claim, which is sent to the central office, thus initiating the compensation negotiations. If your flight was a connection involving two airlines, the final carrier is normally the one responsible for processing your claim. The airline will not automatically pay the full amount of your claim, for they will first use the information you provide to estimate the value of your lost belongings, paying you the depreciated value (as opposed to original prices or the replacement costs). Don’t exaggerate your claim to get more money out of the airline, for they often dismiss claims that seem inflated or fraudulent. Eventually an amount will be agreed upon, which can sometimes be exchanged for free future tickets that exceed the agreed-upon amount.
  • Limits on luggage liability – Airlines will only pay up to $3,000 per passenger for delayed, lost or damaged bags on domestic trips. If your possessions exceed that amount, you should consider purchasing excess valuation insurance, if available, from the airline as you check in, which will increase the carrier’s potential liability. The airline has the right to refuse to sell you excess valuation if the items you are carrying are deemed extremely valuable, such as jewelry and antiques.

Hopefully you will not experience any difficulties on your next trip through the friendly skies, but keep these rules in mind in case you do. If something unforeseen does delay your trip, do not shy away from calmly asking the airline for reasonable compensation. As always, feel free to contact us, your trusted travel advisors, with any questions regarding any of your travels.

Travel Insurance Is It Right for You?

You travel half-way around the globe to experience an exotic locale, lugging along your kids, your laptop and your new digital camera with the mega-zoom lens. Everything is postcard perfect until the end, as you’re waiting for a cab to the Cairo airport, eating some koshary you picked up from a street vendor, you realize your bags are gone, including your laptop and your new digital camera with the mega-zoom lens. Luckily you still have your kids. But what now?

Or say your husband falls off the Great Wall, fractures his leg and needs to be airlifted to a hospital 100 miles away? Or an ambitious snowstorm not only covers the mountain you were set to ski, but also the resort? In all of the situations above, travel insurance saves the day.

Like all other insurance policies—house, car, health—you never expect travel insurance to go into effect, but you’re relieved when it does. It covers a wide range of travel-specific situations, including trip cance llation, lost bags, sudden illness, medical troubles, essential items you’ll need if your bags are delayed, transportation to medical facilities and more.

You spend so much time and energy researching, planning and paying for the perfect vacation, it makes sense to add travel insurance to the equation, ensuring that all your hard work does not go up in smoke due to some unforeseen event or illness.

Yet travel insurance is not for everyone. A three-hour plane ride to stay at the Marriott near Aunt Hester’s house needs no extra coverage. But when you plan to visit an unfamiliar part of the world, travel during times of unpredictable weather, drive through underdeveloped countries or engage in physical activities, then travel insurance is just as important to pack as your toiletry bag.

Here’s a list of the most popular types of travel insurance you may want to consider for your next vacation. Of course, if you have any questions or need more information about t ravel insurance, please call us at the agency at any time.

  • Trip Cancellation and Interruption – The most common type of travel insurance, trip cancellation covers deposits or non-refundable payments if a trip is canceled or interrupted due to unforeseen circumstances. This coverage is generally meant for illness, injury or death suffered by you, your family or travel companion. But it can also cover supplier situations, such as a cancelled cruise due to a propeller problem or if a tour operator defaults the week before you trip.
  • Emergency Medical Coverage – Before you leave on any international trip, check your health insurance; the policy you have in the United States does not cover you the same way overseas, especially when a pre-existing condition is involved. With emergency medical coverage, if you have an accident, or if you fall ill because you drank tap water, you will be reimbursed for the medical expenses incurred. Coverage varies from policy to policy, and you can tailor medical travel insurance to cover that which your regular health insurance does not cover overseas.
  • Emergency Evacuation or Emergency Transportation – While falling ill and staying in a hospital in a foreign land can rack up a hefty bill, nothing compares to when you need to be medically evacuated from a remote area, which can incur a charge as high as $100,000. Emergency evacuation insurance covers this transportation to a hospital or other medical facility. This is key coverage to have for those traveling to remote areas of the world, those with chronic illnesses or who are pregnant, or those who are involved in hardcore adventure travel.
  • Property Loss – Covers your luggage and personal effects in case they are lost, stolen, damaged or indefinitely delayed.

The next time you plan a trip, pack a little peace of mind by purchasing travel insurance. Give our agency a call and we’ll set you up with the perfect policy that fits your plans and your budget.


Know Your Passport Requirements
Before You Go

IATA Travel Centre's New Web Site Provides Accurate,
Up-to-Date Passport Information and More

The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) wants you to know all the travel requirements of the country you’re visiting before you go. That’s why they created the IATA Travel Centre at

The Travel Centre provides personalized advice for travel planning and trip preparation, including passport, visa and health requirements, as well as customs, airport tax and currency information. Access to the site is free.

Every year an estimated 35,000 travelers are turned back at destination or transfer points by immigration authorities due to improper documentation. Now, with the help of the Travel Centre, you can make sure this doesn’t happen to you!

If there is any information on the Travel Centre Web site that is unclear, or if you need more information about the destination you’re traveling to, a professional travel agent is always just a phone call away.

Every year an estimated 35,000 travelers are turned back at destination or transfer points by immigration authorities due to improper documentation. Now, with the help of the Travel Centre, you can make sure this doesn’t happen to you!


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